But Mom had a different idea.
“This will probably be your last Easter at home,” she said, teary-eyed.
Her argument would have been more compelling if she hadn’t already used it on me – successfully – the previous Easter. At that time, we expected that I would be doing missionary work for our church when the next Easter rolled around. We didn’t anticipate the emergency surgery that would keep me home long enough for another round of Easter egg hide-n-seek.
“But Mom,” I said, “I’m an adult. This seems like such a . . . baby thing.”
“That’s OK,” she said, sniffling. “You’re MY baby. Besides, I found a really good hiding place this year. I don’t think you’ll ever find it.”
How could I refuse that? I had always been a sucker for the “baby” line. Mom used it on me to explain both privilege and responsibility. I wasn’t exactly sure what being the youngest of her eight children had to do with anything beyond the fact that I was always first in line to open Christmas presents and last in line for bathroom privileges (and believe me, there were plenty of times I would have willingly traded the former for the latter). But it had to mean something.
More importantly, however, she had thrown down a challenge. I had always taken pride in my ability to sniff out her Easter hiding places – which wasn’t a huge accomplishment. In our family, we didn’t hide Easter eggs, we hid entire Easter baskets, stuff full of candy and eggs. There just aren’t that many places you can hide and Easter basket – especially in the two-bedroom condo in which we lived at the time. So I was intrigued by Mom’s suggestion that she might be able to stump me, and sort of anxious to prove her wrong.
It felt a little silly to be searching for an Easter basket at my advanced age, but I didn’t think it would take very long. I sort of half-heartedly started looking in all of the usual places: the dryer, the dishwasher, the clothes hamper, Dad’s file cabinet. Nothing. I became more enthusiastic about the search as I shifted to more unusual locations: the furnace, the toilet tank, behind the book shelf, in the crawl space above the lights. Still no luck.
“Do you want a hint?” Mom asked as she sensed my growing urgency.
“Nah,” I said, as casually as I could. “I know where it is. I’m just going for drama here.”
Actually, I had no idea where the basket could be. I had looked everywhere. There was no place left in the condo where it could be hidden. She had won. After all these years, she had finally hidden a basket that I couldn’t find. I had no choice but to graciously admit defeat.
Well, OK – I had one other choice. Early in my search I found the mostly empty bags of candy that had been used to fill the Easter basket. I took a couple of handfuls and strode confidently into the room where Mom was watching TV.
“Great candy, Mom,” I said, pointedly munching a chocolate bunny. “Thanks!”
“Oh, you found it!” Mom said, her lips pursed in a mock pout. “I never could fool you!”
I just shrugged and smiled a hollow chocolate smile.
I don’t know if Mom ever figured out that she actually won the last Easter basket hunt. If she did, she never mentioned it. But if she didn’t . . . well, it’s time she knew.
You’re the winner, Mom – wherever you are.
Oh, and one other thing. I’m still your baby.